“Don't panic, Wren. It's a Tier VI existence but his soul is significantly injured...Look!” Silent Mind said.
I know, okay! Do you see the army of possessor parasites falling from the sky like a fucking horror movie version of a skittles commercial!?
“Um, no... Panic away then but I don't see how that'll help!
Wren summoned Drafodil.
“I truly hope this is life or dea... Alright, it's serious. He's two Tiers of existence above you. Even dangerously close to dissolution, void denizens have many ways to restore themselves quickly and I think I know how he's going to do it. You need to leave now. Get to the safe-zone and go as far as it will take you. He's went rogue so unless he finds what he's looking for he'll have to leave quick or risk exposing his identity and have any faction and association memberships revoked since he has direc-”
Wren watched in terror as the cut-out person burrowed through into Jaden and Lilly's realm about a quarter mile from his current position. He quickly pulled his void realm connection out of the way. Since their realm was bleeding into this one he sent a message to Lilly to expel her connection to his and allow herself to fall. He'd catch her into his realm along with the others around her. Even as he was doing that he was sending the psychic flair out to Glaucous and sending an emotional painted mental picture of Lilly being in danger here.
Receiving mental input from multiple sources at once, scrambled them in Wren's mind. At some point, nearly instantaneous, Jaden had managed to reach Lilly's side while Glaucous and Troy led everyone at the beach to the safe-zone. So far Glaucous' Seaside city had yet to be hit but Glaucous trusted in the larger dream catcher traps Wren had laid there. Not entirely sure how she had done it, Wren witnessed a large portion of the fracturing realm be drawn into Lilly's roots as the group fell from the sky.
The cut-out man leveled void power at Lilly but was interrupted for a half second by a spear throw from Liita before the spear and a large portion of the warrior woman's right side disintegrated into an errant distortion of space. As Wren tried to pull them into his realm his power froze for a half second as Jaden flared up like a mini sun to stop the second attempt to hit Lilly, drawing the cut-out man's gaze directly to him.
Time itself seemed to move through molasses as an obsidian oval surrounded Lilly and the people clustered around her roots, causing a chain reaction eruption of a second oval that knocked Grimalkin, and the chrysalis that was held tightly in his arms, out of the first. Right before they would have hit the ground, the two groups flashed out of existence. Silent Mind's message that they would bind to Little Omelet's ark was the last mental input Wren untangled but he didn't get all the reason why.
“My call mark can buy you a few seconds by mimicking your signature. Class and evocation powers, besides void, only. Go!” Drafodil said as she took on a multi-color hue around her cut-out shape.
They're safe...Don't know how I'm ever going to reach them but they're safe...just run, don't think.
Wren summoned a light infused transport and max speeded to the safe-zone as Drafodil led cut-out man to open sea. Three void jumps later he had caught up to her and she ignited all the potential in her to spread the fake Wren signature in a roughly five mile radius
Status notice: Void denizen call mark has temporarily been deactivated. Estimated time of reinstatement is 72 hours.
SYSTEM notice to all participants: Seaside safe-zone has temporarily been declared an evacuation center. Participant transport to and native transportation out are temporarily suspended of cost.
Upon arrival at the safe-zone, Wren met up with Troy and Glaucous.
“Wren, you need to collect the trapped possessors. The dream catcher traps are too full and if they erupt there is nothing to protect anyone from possession save Troy who's purification only extends so far. It's not enough to keep the whole safe-zone clear. Now, hurry!” Glaucous said urgently.
Shit! Drafodil just... If I don't then the first thing the parasites will do is destroy the obelisk.
Being discrete as he could, Wren made his way over to the obelisks and drew the parasites into his void. Despite the overwhelming amount, the trap's affect on the parasites and his recent strengthening barely handled the load. Despite not getting immediately sensed by the cut-out man, the terrifying existence showed up at the safe-zone in less than a minute after Wren anyway.
“There's someone near the Kajrya obelisk that can help but will need about ten seconds of my begging to get his ass moving, Wren. I'm not running away, I'm get-” Troy said as he disappeared into the obelisk.
Wouldn't blame you if you were. I'm about to.
“What's the matter, Shi 'I nan? Still too weak to crack open a basic guardian barrier?” Cut-out man said mockingly.
“Only... scout general. Sent with little... resources.” said a mostly invisible blob coating the upper most third of the safe-zone barrier.
Without waiting for Glaucous' permission, he grabbed the big man and pulled him into a slingshot through the ley line without an obelisk, sending Glaucous to his spirit gathering chamber. He threw a temporary distortion into the line with earth magnetism before diving for the nearest obelisk for escape. He silently cursed himself for not following Glaucous instead, as both obelisks and the barrier ceased to exist at the same time.
By this point most of the natives were gone, save a dozen visiting natives and three participants who decided to brave almost certain death for the sake of aiding evacuees. Before three breaths were done, everyone remaining was possessed except for Wren, who ate the two who were targeting Wren.
“There you are, little freak cousin. Blame it on bad fortune my father and brother were adamant on accepting your eradication mission. I was actually against it but being the youngest, I'm rarely listened to. Unfortunately I was hurt badly and need some help recovering. Not to worry though. You make an excellent spirit medicine furnace. So glad I picked up that branch study of soul forge alchemy.” Cut-out man said before diving at him and driving his far more powerful void into the center of Wren's own.
It took less than a second to overpower Wren's will as the cut-out man hijacked Wren's void power. Augmenting it with his own, the hateful stranger expanded the void to begin wildly drawing in everything in the area save himself.
“What... are you... betrayed!” Shi 'I nan said before cut-out man sliced the invisible blob in half and let the pieces slide into the vortex.
Reward notice: Elimination of scout general parasite
Wren nearly lost consciousness right then but something that the cut-out man did, kept him awake. He felt the fifteen possessed innocent souls fall into the sundering vortex. Trying as best he could to exercise some control he managed to send the mutilated bodies and souls of the three participants into the middle realm instead. He would have done more but it was only with the SYSTEM's guiding help that he was able to do that much.
“Now, while you digest all that trash for me, let's burn off those pesky bonds so I can really enjoy this next part. I do so hate touching impure bodies. I like my furnaces fresh.” Cut-out man said as he sent void power dancing a corrosive jig down Wren's bonds.
Jaden and Lilly's bonds dissolved like cotton candy before the backlash had Wren screaming in pain and misery. The strange tribal swirls of silver fire remained untouched, as did the red string induced bond of Grimalkin. These two tenacious connections bolstered Wren's self image as his physical body become illusory, letting his light shine out. He could feel the cut-out man bonding to and forcing his own desired form upon Wren but he fought off the change with partial success. Apparently even the Great Pattern wasn't a big fan of what the demented stranger was trying to do. Despite that, he did change enough for the cut-out man to seem baffled but uncaring.
“Close enough. In a strange kind of way this is better. You look a bit like my brother would have if he was weaker, younger and less confidant. I've always wanted to see him scream and writhe underneath me as I devoured him. Sadly, this is the closest I can get. I'll just have to imagine my father watching us impassively as he did the day my brother dominated and humiliated me in front of our family. How dare that bitch kill them! How dare she steal my revenge from me!
“Oh dear. Look at me chatting away like a villain. I almost missed the moment where the influx of power would start splitting your astral shell. The splintering of a spiritual vessel is more beautiful than a budding flower, than a slow motion firework. Once again, don't worry. I'll hold you together until your soul eater bounty is posted, then I'll scrape all the nice pure primal spirit out of you like ice cream. Maybe after I spit out your pit to join the wheel you'll have a better life. Oh wait, of course I'm going to trap that to play with later. Why isn't-”
Gloaming covered hands burst out from the head and chest of the preoccupied cut-out man. Bit's of heart, brain and the entirety of the body fell into the wild void blender, temporarily clogging it.
Reward notice: Elimination of anonymously reported Tier VI rogue Balance Keeper- pending review... director approval override, maximum reward.
Host approved private message: Don't know what lucky dog shit you stepped into today to pull that off but good job boy! Proud of you!
“I'm afraid that won't be happening... Oops, he fell in. Well, Usuway said I had to save you from him not from your own power. It's close enough to fulfill the oath to my late daughter-in-law at any rate.” said the unknown guy who tried to kidnap Grimalkin awhile back.
“Revered ancestor Aaron, could you not fetch it out before it's consumed?” said Rohn.
“Why would I do that? I'd risk losing a part of myself in the process. I'll teach you a lesson instead. You can save him, and in the process become Asura, then be deported to the Abyss or you could wait for him to shred apart and consume the neutralized primal essence. There should be enough to promote you to Tier V. Love or power, it's your choice.
“If you chose the first, I still possess enough sentimentality to honor your sacrifice and protect him from the bounty. After all, it's not his fault he was turned into a furnace... If you chose the second, I'll teach you an evolutionary model with high growth potential, possibly allowing you to become a Tier VI one day,” Aaron said, the indifferent voice of casual temptation.
Rohn struggled with the choice for a small handful of seconds before he said, “I choose to save him. How do I accomplish that goal?”
Aaron sighed then said, “I took you in thinking you were ruthless enough to make it. Alas the young often fall to the whims of love...”
Aaron drew them into the Gloaming. In his odd state of hyper awareness, at the edge of dissolution, Wren noticed that this odd place was not much different than the space between places but his intuition was telling him a different story. This place was not of either positive or negative influence. Despite that, it didn't feel unaligned. It was as if time and space collided with life and death to produce a place that just felt uncaring and indifferent, a place where zeal for existence eroded to jaded ennui.
Aaron continued, “Wren, is it? Now it's your turn to chose. Either bond Rohn and inevitably consign him to the Abyss or do nothing and see how long it takes me to grow bored of dealing with you before I let you explode.
Do you have to be such a jackass about everything you do or is it just me you don't particularly care for? Luckily, or unluckily depending on view point, I almost went Asura myself once and asked Drafodil about a way to stop it.
Wren gathered as much of his will through the agony and squeezed out through clenched teeth, “Soma... just bought. Three shares... Rohn is welcome with Glaucous to share risk and reward.” Wren finished with a watery smile and flipped Aaron off.
“Oh!? And how did you afford such and expensive medicine?” Aaron asked looking genuinely surprised.
You're fucking kidding me right!? I'm about to explode and you wanna chat!?
“Mentor reported rogue Tier VI... credit for kill and scout general... plus army...
Slow explosion here~! Please bring back... Glaucous waiting.
Aaron stood motionless for a moment before laughing mechanically and as he brought Rohn and Wren back he said, “Usuway, you cunning fox. No wonder you liked this little ant so much. Resourceful and prepared you said...HAHAHA.”
Prepared my ass! The reward for bullet dicing a stunned rogue Tier VI, borrowing his own power, was just as much a surprise to me as it was to you! Beyond that, the third share of soma would have been Troy's, if he got back fast enough, Sable's if he didn't. I'd rather bank on Rohn as being able to handle it though. Besides, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't moved, at least a little, by Rohn's ability to chose sacrificing his future freedom over a power up for my sake.
As soon as they were world-side again, Glaucous was waiting with three twist cap bottles. Wren directed Glaucous to hand one to Rohn mentally which surprised Glaucous a little but he really bugged out when he saw the gloaming obscured figure.
Glaucous passed the bottles out as he said, “Is that you Aaron? As much as it galls me, I likely have you to thank for Wren's survival, no?”
SYSTEM note: Amrita/Soma is a controlled substance who's property rights are owned and approved for use by Divine Healer Dhanvantari. Any attempt to research or reproduce Amrita/Soma without expressed approval by Divine Healer Dhanvantari will result in a SYSTEM ban on the obtaining of any material goods within the SYSTEM.
Wren immediately felt relief after downing the indescribable, aside from sweet, hot spring energy drink as he felt his astral shell become elastic and the splits temporarily fortified by the mysterious substance. Additionally, the gaseous life and spirit essence was condensing into more of a liquid-like feeling as impurities where settling and passing out the bottom of his astral shell. The one thing that Wren didn't know was good or bad was the crystalline shard of Silent Mind's remains diffusing throughout his entire astral shell, even propagating a little.
In hind sight, the three doses of soma may have been enough to get him through the crisis he was facing, all by itself. If not for Glaucous' ancestry and involvement in it's procurement, however, Wren may not have been approved for the exchange. That said ancestry seemed to be the root of some pretty big family drama at that moment.
Aaron said, “So you will dispense with formality and custom by not referring to me as father?”
Glaucous blandly replied, “Do you view me as your son?”
With disappointment apparent in his voice, Aaron said, “The two are not the same issue. My carnal act with your mother produced you. You, however are an atavistic throwback of your maternal grandfather and carry next to none of my legacy. Logically that means that I am, in fact, your father but does not accord you to say that you are more than, in proxy, my son. I therefore expect you to address me as father while I shall call you Glaucous. Now do you understand, or need I simplify?”
Wren, still jittery from his brush with death and therefore not clearheaded enough to stay out of affairs that didn't involve him, said. “In that case, Glaucous, you should call him sperm donor. It's far more factually correct than the term father which carries emotional connotations that Aaron has no intentions of acknowledging. It also more accurately portrays, what I assume, is his actual investment in your life and carries the appropriate amount of filial responsibility such a person is due. Which is to say, no more than whatever investment the donor has actually made to your safety and well being... Don't worry. If Aaron didn't understand I believe I'm capable of simplifying it.”
The temperature dropped a few degrees as Aaron turned to Wren and said, “I understand perfectly. A person whom I have just saved the life of is grotesquely ungrateful.”
Wren replied blithely, though inside he was already starting to regret opening his mouth, “I am immensely grateful... to Usuway. Had you put in more than the minimal effort your oath required of you, perhaps you would be due more than the minimal amount of my gratitude you possess, failed kidnapping of my lover aside. Attempts to capitalize on emotional connections you seem to only vaguely sense the existence of, therefore are incapable of properly reciprocating, is what I find grotesque.
The gloaming aura around Aaron began roiling more thickly when a soothing man's voice interrupted, “This may not be the proper time but I must insist... Wren, are you still in possession of the souls of three participants?” The angel Artiya'il looked at Wren, hopeful.
Wren inwardly breathed an inward sigh of relief before he said, “I do. I also have the soul core of a Tier VI existence, that is trying to reconstitute itself, I'd like to trade for a resurrection for the three.”
Artiya'il looked troubled as he said, “Such an exchange is somewhat coarse and not exemplary of charity.”
Wren said, “On the contrary. The soul in question attempted to use me as a furnace to consume the other souls in question. It is a matter of righteous justice, right?”
Artiya'il pondered it for a moment before lifting his head and singing a mournful note to the sky. Shadows coalesced into a feminine form wrapped in the most provocative burka Wren had ever seen. The two distinctly different angels conversed in melody for a moment before the burka wearing one reached out a pale, beautifully formed hand. Wren understood, without knowing exactly how, that an agreement had been made as he handed over the cut-out man's soul with 1/3 of it's shell reformed. That shell turned to dust as soon as it laid in her palm. She nodded to Artiya'il and melted back into the shadows.
Artiya'il said, “Do not judge him harshly, Wren. If he had someone to help him forget his woes then he could have been a very different man.”
Wren said not unkindly, “That is why you are an angel, my friend, and why I'll likely not be. I hold grudges against those that have harmed my loved ones.”
Wren drew out the three partial bodies, their souls still not yet fully detached. Artiya'il brushed his hand against his wing and three downy feathers drifted down upon the mangled participants. Before they had even awoken, Artiya'il was gone. Wren, seeing that two new obelisks had been dropped for him to place, did so without a fuss. He realized his case was still under review and doing a few brownie point actions couldn't hurt. As he went about his task he said a few words with the participants before sending them on their way. It was likely to be some time before his wonderfully laid safe-zone plan would be lucrative again but he knew time would ease away that worry.
One thing time would not ease is the steadily building pressure that even the soma would soon not be able to completely handle on its own. Though its effects would last for days, there were still limits on what his elastic soul shell could hold before it popped. Wren decided to address some issues before him and his, about to be, newly bonded got down to sticky business.
Ignoring the building anticipation on Rohn and Glaucous' faces he remained calm and contemplative as he said, “ I have a few things I'd like to get off my chest before we get to doing what must be done. Please let me finish before saying whatever you'd like me to hear... Rohn, I think very highly of you. I saw you make sacrifices for your children and your family. I've seen you forgive things I would not be able to so easily for the sake of love and family. I've witnessed today what you were willing to give up in order to save my life. I don't feel worthy of it because I don't know if I can give you what you truly want from me. I'm not even wholly sure what that is. What I am willing to give you is my loyal friendship and an open mind.
“Glaucous, we've been a mixed blessing for each other but at the end of the day I'd say the good outweighs the bad by a large margin. Though it's a complicated feeling, I see you as family. I've been scared of ever being intimate with you because I don't want to make things any more complicated between us but I trust you because you've never did more than open your arms to me and left it for me to decide. I appreciate the hell out of that.
“From past experience, I can tell you both that we really won't have that much control over what we do once we get started. Please don't take advantage of that to do as you will but, up to a certain point, I won't hold anything against you if you'll do the same for me. Grimalkin is my lover. Jaden is my heart-brother, bond or no, and Lilly is my family. What we'll eventually be to each other I cannot say but it won't change how I feel about the others. Maybe we won't even have an easy name for what we are but as long as you respect the place in my heart for Little Gray, Lilly and Jaden, I'm willing to find out.”
After a brief silence Glaucous was the first to speak. “I'll admit that my feelings for you are complicated as well. Similarly I can say that I hold a desire to remain close to you in the way of family and also know not how to name this clearly. My thoughts to lay with you spring only from the knowledge that it would be pleasing, aside from when I thought I may lay with you as a man with a woman. That tied my two desires for you together in a way that still resonates within me. When we are done with this, I will begin looking for a successor to lead my children. I wish to travel with you. Remaining sedentary here no longer appeals. I wish to tie my path with yours for a time, if not for all time.”
Rohn still struggled in silence for a bit more but Wren waited patiently until he finally said, “I believe my love for you to be the same as your love for Little Gray. If one day, you could lean upon me the way you wish him to lean upon you then perhaps that will be enough. I know it doesn't sit well with you to be the object of a man's desire in such a way. I both am thankful and curse this day because I have finally been given the chance to hold you and I know that events may happen to break oaths sworn in youth, I care not. That another will hold you as well is a sore I will run my tongue over and worry but I cannot deny its need. I've never begrudged what I had to give but have always had difficulty with sharing. I will learn. For your sake, I will learn. As I do I can only ask for your patience as I evoke the difficulty you may feel seeing a man embrace and place their love and desire upon Little Gray as you do and have no choice but to accept it... I can see it would be no easy thing for you either.”
Touche, Brother Rohn.
Wren said, “Then I'll ask you both, what are your absolute expectations of me. Be truthful. It's best to get this out now. Despite Cut-out Man making it look easy, breaking a bond is no small thing and without soma I'd have taken years to recover.”
This time it was Rohn who spoke first. “For me to have your love as you have Little Gray's. The three of us will be lovers and all other bonded have other roles outside of your women who accept us as we share, as you will. A goal I'm willing to spend my lifetime to pursue. I risk the flame, Wren, because I'd rather burn than freeze to death.”
Glaucous seemed a little more unsure as he said, “I'm not certain of anything I want from you outside of what you are willing to give. I think that even if we were to be lovers it would not be good for either of us. I may seek pleasure with you but I do not wish to be your lover. The term I've heard once that seems most appropriate would be the cousins that kiss? I believe that whatever awaits me will be more fulfilling where ever you are but I have yet to find the one that will take my heart. This is my feeling for now. Even as time passed I believe I have stayed somewhat a child in mind. I only now feel that I can become a man in mind as I have been in body for so long. It is a shameful thing to admit, especially since I am a father three times over but so I find it to be.”
Shakily, and with more than a little trepidation, Wren said, “Then lets begin.” He had ran out of time to dither.